On a Thursday afternoon in March, students at New Bedford Whaling Museum’s High School Apprenticeship Program are diligently at work. Decked out in goggles and gloves, they use a blueprint to construct a boat – a life-size replica of a small, paper model. From assembling to smoothing, gluing and prepping, students take care of the entire operation.
Open to low-income New Bedford high school students, the Apprenticeship Program is designed to immerse students in skill-based projects in the humanities and interpretive sciences, intensive mentorship, and life skills instruction, including college preparation and financial literacy. They also receive training in public speaking, personal comportment, and audience engagement. Students meet four days a week after school in the Museum’s Apprentice Lab.
Apprentices exemplify the mission of the program with clear professionalism, goal-oriented motivation and resourcefulness. As students directed a tour through the diverse galleries describing the exhibits with a comfortable familiarity, it was clear that the museum is a second home.
“I have learned about some of the components that are used to make boats and actually how to build a boat. I have also learned how to handle my personal finances.” – Kelton, youth participant
“This program has challenged me because it’s made me more open and more comfortable talking to people.” – Darlene, youth participant
“[The Apprenticeship Program] has challenged me to practice my English” – Suely, youth participant
“The program has really challenged me to find a balance between school and work.” – Ryland, youth participant
“Traveling to Iceland [with the program] was honestly one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever been given. It really changed my outlook on people and I’d really love to go back and explore more.” – Alexandra, youth participant
To date, there have been 47 graduates from the Apprenticeship Program. 100% have graduated from high school and 93% have pursued post-secondary education. This year, an apprentice will attend an Ivy League school in the fall, the first of the program’s graduates to do so. A second program graduate is also scheduled to receive their Master’s in 2018. The program boasts a strong alumni base with past apprentices returning to the museum as part-time employees, interns, volunteers, and guest speakers.
The group’s boat is set to float at the Boat Launching Party on May 20 at the Community Boating Center of New Bedford.